Design, display, and specs
After being long rumored to introduce its own smartphone, Amazon has finally unveiled its Fire phone. On Wednesday morning, Amazon announced the Fire featuring a whole new 3D interface that tracks the users' gaze using four cameras.
Novelty features for sure but Amazon needs to make its device as unique as possible to stand apart in today's crowded smartphone world. The Amazon Fire phone joins the already frantic fray with the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5S.
While the Fire isn't equipped with the latest bleeding edge hardware, its offers some uniquely enticing features that may draw users away from the safety of Samsung and Apple. Here's a rundown of the how the Fire compares with the competition.
Amazon hasn't skimped at all on the industrial build quality of its first ever handset. Featuring a rubberized frame, Gorilla Glass on both the front and back, CNC aluminum buttons, polished button chamfers, and injection-molded steel connectors every part of this handset should have a tight and precise fit.
The Fire is also smaller than its competitors thanks to having a more conservative 4.7-inch screen. Overall the Amazon smartphone measures 139.2mm x 66.5mm x 8.9 mm in size and weighs 160 grams.
Despite having the smallest screen of the bunch the Fire is still heavier than even the LG G3 and it 5.5-inch screen. This is likely because the Fire comes with two panes of Gorilla glass, whereas the LG G3 has a lightweight 149g plastic frame measuring 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 is made of a similarly lightweight 142 x 72.5 x 8.1mm plastic frame weighing only 145g. The Galaxy S5 also has the honor of being the only waterproof handset with a removable back allowing users to replace the battery.
Despite its metal body, the iPhone 5S is by far the lightest at 112g but also the smallest at only 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm.
On paper the weakest part of the Amazon Fire Phone is its lacking 1280 x 720 resolution screen. Although the Fire has a smaller 4.7-inch screen to give the pixels less room to spread out, it still has the lowest ppi density at 315 even when compared to the 326ppi iPhone 5S and its 1136 x 640 pixel display.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the LG G3 comes with one of the mobile industry's first QHD displays at an eye popping 2560 x 1440 resolution and 538ppi. The Galaxy S5 lags behind with a standard full-HD 1920 x 1080 panel and a ppi of 431.
Screen resolution is of course only half the story. The Fire still has a leg up thanks to its display being an IPS panel, which should resolve better than average colors. Additionally IPS screens tend to have more generous viewing angles that should help keep the picture clear when users are twisting and tiling the phone to odd angles as they use its 3D interface.
Sadly the Fire also comes packing an older generation 2.2GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU paired with an Adreno 330 GPU, whereas most of its Android competition – including the Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3 – are powered with a 2.5GHz Qualcomm quad-core chip and Adreno 300 GPU.
All three handsets, however, come packing the same 2GB amount of RAM, that is, unless users are looking to pick up the 32GB version of the LG G3 with 3GB of RAM onboard.
Storage wise users can pick up a 32GB version of the Samsung Galaxy S5 to match the only available tier of the Fir,e but Amazon's handset lacks any mircoSD slot for holding any additional data.
The iPhone 5S, meanwhile, is in its own older class of hardware using the Apple developed 1.3GHz dual-core A7 chip with 1GB RAM and a PowerVR G6430 GPU.
Cameras, features, price, and our early verdict
Technically, the Amazon Fire has a total of six cameras but for now we're going to talk about the ones that actually shoot images. The handset is equipped with a 13MP rear-facing camera with an f/2.0 lens.
The 13MP sensor might be not be too exciting when the LG G3 has a matching resolution imaging chip. The Galaxy S5, meanwhile, actually beats out the Amazon smartphone with a 16MP camera that can shoot 4K video.
That said, the Fire has the widest aperture lens whereas the LG G3 is trapped at f/2.4 and the Galaxy S5 and iPhone both have a f.2.2 lens. This wider lens should allow the Fire to capture more light at night. Amazon thus far has already touted its phone has clearer and sharper low-light capabilities than both Apple and Samsung.
Moving onto one of the most unique features Fire, Amazon's smartphone has four infrared cameras designed to track the users' face and orientation to the device. It's not 3D nor parallax, instead the Fire's entire interface is designed to present a 3D like experience that shifts to match the user's gaze.
Integrated with maps, this added visual layer could allow users to see information "tucked" underneath such as Yelp ratings and reviews. For some more visual flair Lockscreens and wallpapers will have a 3D effect.
This perspective skewing experience is only half the formula though users will also be able to navigate on their phone using gesture controls. The Fire Phone has some beefed up accelerometers to take commands like one-hand tilting to scroll through a list of shopping items in the Amazon Shopping app.
Elsewhere, Fire users could the tilting controls while listening to music on the Amazon Music app to reveal song lyrics or auto-scroll through an article on the web.
Right off the bat Amazon is including free unlimited photo storage and a free year of Prime for anyone that picks up its first handset.
Along with the free-two day shipping on practically everything Amazon sells, Prime grants users access to unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Prime Instant Video. Amazon boasted that Fire owners will be able to watch over 200,000 videos, including exclusive content.
The free streaming also extends to Amazon's music library. Additionally users can borrow an e-book from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library of over 500,000 titles to choose from.
Additionally, Amazon hopes its Fire Phone will take off as a media device that can fling video to any Miracast device such as a Fire TV.
Apple has a similar AirPlay system set up for connecting users' iDevices to an Apple TV. Android users, meanwhile, can flick their video content from mobile phone to the Chromecast. Although these are both good options that work, Amazon wins out slightly simply because there are more devices that work on the Miracast standard.
Amazon unique MayDay, "tell me how to use this device" feature also makes a return on the Fire phone with a dedicated physical button to trigger it no matter if the user is connected by 3G, 4G, or Wi-Fi.
The Fire also has yet another physical button and this one is used to trigger the Fire's new Firefly feature. While users have been able to use their smartphone cameras to scan barcodes and QR stamps, Firefly takes image based searching to a new level by identifying physical objects.
While using the feature, virtual fireflies will gather around any object captured by the phone's camera to identify and track down the object on Amazon's digital retail space. What's more, the feature can be used to identify songs, TV Shows, and Movies based a small snippet of audio similar to Shazam for X-Ray information or a link to buy it from Amazon.
In some non-commercially oriented uses, Firefly could be used to identify paintings. The feature can also extrapolate text from a sign saving users the process of typing in a phone number and other information manually.
For now the Amazon Fire Phone is only available on AT&T for starting price of $199 (about £120/AU$210) for the 32GB version with a two-year contract. Similarly, the Samsung Galaxy S5 comes at $199 (about £120/AU$210) but the big blue carrier only has a 16GB model available.
A similarly specced iPhone 5S can be had for $249.99 (about £147.09/AU$265.71) with a two year contract on AT&T.
The LG G3's availability is still questionable except for a rumor it will launch on Verizon come this July 17 for a yet to be announce price.
It's clear Amazon is trying to build on its successful run of tablets by first announcing Fire TV and now a Fire Phone. It's not a truly stand out phone on specs alone but thanks to the company's massive cache of digital content and a few unique features, the Fire is a tantalizing new wrinkle in the mobile space.
Much of the talk surrounding the Fire up to its reveal pinned a new 3D interface as being the phone's most stand out feature. But in reality it's not parallax or a true three-dimensional experience, which leaves us a bit disappointed.
It's too early to call the Amazon Fire a sure buy handset, we'll wait - and all users should - until we see the interface first hand and run the phone's unique Firefly feature through a ringer of real world objects.